MRM Lecture Series

In Memory of Michael S. Ratner

Unique Lecture Series: A Chicago Success Story!

We’ve recently moved the Michael Ratner Memorial Lecture Series (MRM) to the Windy City. It seems fitting since my late husband, Michael, and I were born and raised in Chicago. But more importantly is the fact that Chicago doesn’t have a periodic lecture series which emphasizes prevention, cutting-edge scientific and alternative treatments, and optimal health through the the latest research-based findings that promote wellness. We pride ourselves with finding the most innovative experts in specific health-related fields to share their wisdom and philosophies with the community.

Our lecture series has been successful since 2009. We’ve assisted people from all over the United States from our core base in Phoenix, Arizona. Our mission hasn’t changed, only our location.



Esophageal cancer (EC) sneaks up on people. My husband, Michael Ratner, (previous owner of Tom’s Restaurant & Tavern in Phoenix), was diagnosed with EC in October of 2008. He had difficulty earlier in the week after he swallowed a piece of carrot, which left him coughing when it became lodged in his esophagus. Two days later, after an endoscopy, the diagnosis was official.

Michael’s health grades were excellent except for a history of recurrent gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which he frequently treated with Pepcid or Tums. He bicycled 20+ miles twice a week, worked out at the gym three days a week, and watched his weight. None of these things would save him.

As many as 15 million Americans experience heartburn every day. Persistent heartburn (two or more times per week) or GERD can cause stomach acid to splash into the esophagus, producing cellular changes that can ultimately result in cancer. If you exhibit these symptoms, schedule a routine endoscopy with your next colonoscopy. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

About three million Americans currently have a disease known as Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous condition that results in as much as a 125-fold increase in an individual’s chance to develop esophageal cancer. Often, esophageal cancer is not discovered until it has reached advanced stages. Early detection saves lives.

The good news is that new medical techniques have been developed that can virtually cure patients if detected at an early stage.


The formation of the lecture series came about after I called several well-known Phoenix cancer centers looking for a support group for EC patients and their families. After finding no specific groups for EC, due to low survivor rates, I decided to start my own. This is how our lecture series started in 2009.

Our goal is to continue to offer comfort, teach coping skills, and provide a place for people to share their experiences. The group began and continues with unique attendees. Some come to learn about a specific disease process while others attend because they are supporting a family member or friend.

One of our original attendees, Deanne Poulos, lost her brother to esophageal cancer two weeks before his 50th birthday. She attended our first lecture meeting, passed around a photo of her late brother, and said, “I’m here to honor my brother and to support all of you.” Poulos attended every lecture. Another member, Harold Riffer, our 22-year cancer survivor (he’s 88-years old), occasionally plays Klezmer music on his saxophone during special occasions. Ken Lange, a 19-year survivor, had been blessed with surviving cancer twice.

Michael died on November 16, 2010, after a 25-month EC battle with metastasis to the spine, bone, and liver. He missed only one lecture before he died—when he was hospitalized. It is in honor of him, that we offer the Michael Ratner Memorial Lecture Series to all patients, their families and friends, and the community.

By the Numbers

The American Cancer Society estimated 20,640 Americans will be diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 2022. The estimates include:

  • 16,510 men diagnosed
  • 4,130 women diagnosed
  • 16,410 deaths

Terry Ratner was married to Michael Ratner and formed the Michael Ratner Memorial Community Support Association.

I invite you, the community, to join us. Feel free to call or email me with any questions.

Terry Ratner, RN, MFA
[email protected]


  1. I was here! You are doing wonderful and helpful deeds for people in need to honor your late husband.
    Joanne Dean

  2. Hi Terry,

    Best wishes for you as you move to Chicago! I’ll miss you! Keep in touch. Blessings!

    Gladys C.

  3. Good luck on your new adventure!

    Eileen W.

  4. Welcome back to the Midwest. Best in setting up the series. With Chicago, Northwestern, Rush and other research hospitals you will have great resources.

    Thanks for your work… best,

    Mary Pat B.

  5. Good luck to you Terry! Thank you for all you do!

    Colleen F.

  6. Hi Terry
    Good to hear from you. Great pictures too 🙂 BTW, Dr. David Duggan gave a fabulous talk for my small group. He was bummed that you moved. Keep in touch.

  7. Good luck, terry. We hope to visit Chicago again and see you.

  8. Terry,

    My hospice was small, in the mountains, and not very many resources for aftercare. But I am anxious to begin a group in the Denver area, where the need is greater. So far 4 friends have passed from EC in the last 5 years. It is a hideous form of cancer that does not get the national attention it needs. Your posts of your journey was the closest to the reality I have read so far.

    I hope your journey continues in a positive and peaceful direction.


    Sandra H.

  9. Terry –
    I am so sorry you have left us but I’m glad you plan to continue your work in Chicago. Your enthusiasm for new knowledge has inspired me to continue to research my own issues, including more recipes for my rest-of-my-life liquid diet. And your compassion and your friendship mean so very much to me. Thank you for being you.

  10. Hi Terry,
    It’s been a long time since I communicated with you, but I have continued to follow your writing in the Tattler. And I noticed even though you have relocated to Chicago your piece was in the most recent Tattler couple weeks ago. Good to see. We are fast approaching the month of November when almost 6 years ago your Michael and my Judy both lost their lives to Cancer. I guess I’ve learned to live with it, but it’s not an easy journey. I know you can relate to it as well. Anyway, wish you the best there in Chicago. Take care.
    Ed D.

  11. Terry,

    I have heard nothing but wonderful comments about your lecture series over the years. I am sure your followers are going to miss you and all the wonderful information and support you provided to them. Please let me know when you return to Phoenix, even if only on an intermittently basis to continue your work. I wish you the very best on your new adventure in Chicago, stay warm this winter.

    Mimi A, RN

  12. Terry,
    We were so very proud of you when you first started the MRM Cancer Support Group, and we still are! You have helped SO many people. I know you will thrive in Chicago and continue your important work, the fight against cancer. We already miss you and we will miss the monthly lectures and all the wonderful people we have met along the way. We have learned so much, thank you! I know Michael is smiling from above!!
    See you in Chicago!
    Carol and Pete

  13. Oh no! Bummed that you’re moving, but I’m sure you’ll benefit the Chicago area. Glad I got a chance to attend one of your meetings – David D from TGen. He’s going to speak for one of my groups (maybe even 2), and if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t even have heard him speak – he’s fantastic. And so are you!
    Mo B

  14. Hi Terry,
    Thank you for everything you did here in Phoenix. I think the few meetings we attended were instrumental in my recovery. I’m glad we met you. Hope you enjoy your next adventure.
    Judy M

  15. Hi Terry,

    Wishing you the best in Chicago.

    Dr. Jeff E.

  16. Terry:

    Good luck on your new adventures in Chicago. I enjoyed your lectures in the past, and I am sure you will continue enriching the lives of your attendees in Chicago. Thanks for your hard work.

    Deborah U

  17. Hi Terry,
    It definitely is bittersweet to Know that we no longer will be seeing you here at the salon. The staff and I will miss you but knowing that no matter where you are, that your work will continue in the fight against cancer. Terry you are truly a blessing. I am a bit envious that you have moved back home to Chicago! Hope to hear from you soon to know when your MRM Cancer Lecture Series introduction happens there in Chicago.
    We wish you well
    Rochelle Q and all the Staff
    Rochelle’s Salon & Spa

  18. Terry,
    I really enjoyed the series and thank you for all the work you put into making them happen. I wish you the best in this next chapter of your life. Take care.
    Warm regards,

    Linda G

  19. Hi Terry,
    I’m sorry you are moving from Arizona but wish you the very best! Thanks very much for the work you have done here!
    Deb M

  20. Thank you Terry for your service to the Phoenix community. While I never succeeded in having my parents join your meetings, I’m happy to report my dad is making positive strides – 2 year anniversary of his surgery – though still very thin but blood work great after his esophageal cancer surgery. At 79, I think he’s doing pretty great and grateful for the incremental strides he makes forward dealing with healing from the surgery and the onset of celiac.

    I wish you all the best in Chicago and feel confident the passion and commitment you bring to the community of Chicago, like you have done in Phoenix will be meaningful and make a different to those who need encouragement most.

    All best,

  21. Greetings, my dad went to the dr with lots of back pain then months later they said it was EC. He went though radiation and chemo in 2014. He was doing good from Nov 14 until 9-15. We have now learned that the tumor is back behind his lungs. He’s been on chemo since 9-15 and will now start some clinic trials.

  22. Hi Terry, my husband was diagnosed T3N0M0 October 9th 2014 – yes that date caught my eye when reading your story, our lives will never be the same. He went through chemo & radiation starting in November and ending the day after Christmas 2014. He had his esophagus removed on January 29. They removed 53 lymph nodes – not one being positive for cancer but he is now doing “mop up” chemo to make sure they got it all. He’s doing Ok just needs to figure out the whole new eating thing. We live in Northern California so we wouldn’t be able to join the group but I love reading about the survivors and relating to the stories – as I did with yours. Thanks for sharing.
    Lauren Kennedy

    • Hi Lauren,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. What a coincidence with the diagnosis date. Where in northern Cal do you live? I’m planning to spend time there this summer. I’d love to meet you and your husband.


      • Hi Terry, we live in Yreka about 20 miles south of the Oregon border right on Interstate 5. We have a restaurant here – Siskiyou Roadhouse. Stop by, we would love to meet you Lauren

  23. these great stories of hope inspire me, one in his first year of cancer shenanigans. I love these stories but I don’t understand most of the abbreviations and acronyms. acronyms and such exclude others out. please include newbies like me. can’t wait to meet you all at the May meeting.

  24. wow, my 83 yr old dad was dx. 6 yrs ago, he lived 12 weeks, not a smoker,drinker,very healthy for his age, except for reflux, for years. I retired nurse/radiotherapy tech. and was clueless to this dissease.A true believer in early Dx., now to educate the doctors! if i only knews then what i know now!

  25. Hi Terry,
    Congratulations of your site. I was a member of the old ACOR group, and am on ECAA and now Smart Patients. I am a 40 year survivor of Squamous Cell EC. I was 34 years old when diagnosed though I experienced problems swallowing two years prior to that. I saw two ENT’s that said it was just nerves. By the time it was discovered, it was inoperable. I was given two weeks to 6 months to live. After seeking a 2nd opinion, I was told there was nothing that could be done for me. I mentioned a doctor I knew of at Shands in Gainesville, Fl and he just happened to have been trained by this doctor. We didn’t know if anyone would agree to try to treat me, but he made a call to Fl and the radiation oncology doctor agreed to try treatment. That is all I received. At the end of the radiation, I was given at best a 5% chance or less to make it for 5 years. I have also had Malt Lymphoma of the stomach (Non-Hodgkins) this cancer was not associated with the EC. I was treated with four very strong antibiotics and it was put into remission, that was in 1997. I have experiences a few problems related to the radiation, I had radiation fractures to spine, A tripple heart by-pass due to damage to arteries from radiation, I have a very tight stricture (scar tissue) and in the past year, I have developed a paralyzed larynx, I only have 30% mobility. I have re-occurent aspiration pneumonia, have had pneumonia in both lungs seven times in the past 15 years. Sounds terrible doesn’t it, you would never know I had any of these problems to look at me, I have truly been blessed. I really can’t share any advice to others, can only offer hope. I don’t know why I was spared as radiation does not cure EC, only serves to shrink the tumor. I was extremely active after my treatment, pushed myself to the limit and I feel this had something to do with my cure. I hope my story can give others the will to fight this terrible cancer. I am very sorry your husband did not survive, as I read your story, I thought of a dear friend of mine who ran 7 miles everyday, developed Pancreatic cancer and only lasted a year.

  26. 15 years NED [no evidence of disease] and 13 plus years working before I couldn’t trust my body to take the stress of the day. Still life is good! Keep the faith! Craig from Iowa

  27. thanks, terry, for your compassion and your guts to step out and do a tough thing… start a group.

  28. 2 year survivor adenocarcinoma stage 3n1m0 esophageal cancer. Treated just up the road from North Chicago (Zion). Will not make the restaurant meetings but let you know there are survivors. I am involved over my head the way it is but giving hope knows no limits.

  29. Glad there are survivors to support. I too am an RN and a widow now of lung cancer for my never smoker husband. Good luck to u.

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